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Is Sumatra Safe?

posts: 13
Is Sumatra Safe?

I'm considering travelliong to or even through Sumatra around January/Feb. Does anyone know of any problems there, or safety issues with travelling to the country?

I've heard it is beautiful, but I don't want to go somewhere unsafe. Thanks

Houston, Texas
posts: 187
reviews: 37
1. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

Sumatra is a big island so it's difficult to answer your question. Where exactly were you thinking of going (Aceh? Medan/North Sumatra? Padang/West Sumatra? Palembang? etc.) and what form would your trip be (tour group? solo land travel by bus/local transport across the island? several cities by plane?)?

Land trip across the island has its challenges but is doable. Jan/Feb is the rainy season so some of the roads can be plagued by landslides or floods. There have been reports of roberies of overnight buses in the southern/central part of the island (Palembang - Padang, Lampung), but mostly the robers tend to prey on cargo trucks carrying goods to/from the ports. I hear that air travel between the cities has gotten quite affordable that most of the locals prefer to fly rather than deal with the delays of intercity bus travel.

The cities of sumatra itself are quite safe. Of course there are dodgy areas in each city - just like there are in London or Houston, so you'll need to exercise the same care as you would anywhere else, especially if you plan on being out at night.

posts: 13
2. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

Hi there, thanks for the info.

I definately wont feel comfortable going alone. If I meet a group of travellers along the way, I'll join them or my partner may fly over to join me in that part of the journey - I don't know yet. If I do end up with no-one to go with I may just join a tour group.

I probably wont go east - I'll be around the West and Northern areas most I'm guessing. Thanks again.

Houston, Texas
posts: 187
reviews: 37
3. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

West Sumatra has some beautiful beaches, canyons (Ngarai Sianok), and volcanic lakes; its culture is also quite interesting. If you start in Padang and make your way to Bukittingi or Pariaman you should see lots of interesting stuff.

North Sumatra is supposed to be quite nice too, the big attraction there is the large lake Toba. But I've never been there myself...

You might be able to find some like-minded travellers online since you aren't leaving till January. It's probably not a good idea to count on being able to run into / pick up other travellers on the road as it is not as heavily frequented by foreigners/backpackers - definitely not as popular as Java or Bali, probably due to a lack of marketing.

Happy trails!

posts: 13
4. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

That's a great idea... thanks again for your help and sight seeing ideas, I'm really looking forward to it.

San Francisco
posts: 1
reviews: 2
5. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

Lake Toba is gorgeous and highly recommended. It's at about 3000 feet altitude so it's breezy and temperatures are asolutely perfect. If sea-level sumatra is normally 85-90 farenheit, Lake Toba is 75-80 F, just perfect.

Sibolga on the coast of Northern Sumatra is an absolute pit and to be avoided at all costs. It looks bad and smells bad. Padang, the capital of western sumatra has a lot going for it, charming hotels, and nice beaches. The western coast of southern sumatra is fairly wild, but does have basic accommodations at a few beaches oriented toward westerners, specifically surfers. Southern sumatra is breezier along the coast that western or northern.

I've been to sumatra twice for surf trips and never hear much about safety issues. The primary safety issues in my view are malaria and motor vehicle accidents.

Atlanta, GA
posts: 14
reviews: 2
6. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

Yes, Sumatra is safe.

I am originally from Medan but have lived in the US for a while.

If you go to Medan,

A visit to Lake Toba (3-4 hrs by car) is a must. A very peaceful place to relax..

Also, Hashing (hiking in the woods, etc..) is another option.. if you'r an outdoor person, you have to join one of the hashing events. it's great.. use a search engine to find the most updated schedule for hashing events. they are typically scheduled on Sundays.

if you enjoy food, check out Jalan Semarang (Semarang Road) in city of Medan, you'll find hundreds of vendors selling food, starting from 5pm until 2am.

I do plan on making another trip to Medan this December..

posts: 1
7. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

Lake Toba is nice and cool all year round. The facilities are basic but ok, but nothing fanciful. The hotels give you time for hot showers - eg. hot water is not available after 10pm unless special request.

Medan (the nearest city/airport to Lake Toba) is more or less like many other South East Asian Cities.

I think its quite safe... I see a lot of churches around. Even in rural areas, church buildings are found all over the place. I think the people in this area are predominantly Christians. - also a lot of pig farms, so I guess not many muslims will like this place.

posts: 40
reviews: 1
8. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

Hi, I have just made a long trip to sumatra last august for 17 days trip. at the beginning I tought it must be too long and boring, but what happens was on the other way arround that it was not enough. we dtarted the trip from medan-bukit lawang ( orang utan rehabilitation, lake toba, pulau poncan and further to maninjau lake. the view was fantastic ! food was good ! minangkabau people are very friendly ! one thing you do not have to miss is the lake maninjau in west sumatra. uncompareable ! the only problem you gonna have is perhaps getting from one place to another. we had our private driver there so it was easier. we were 4 of us and we shared the budget so it was cheaper and more fun!

once again SUMATRA IS A NICE PLACE TO BE . go and explore.


posts: 1
9. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?


I plan to go for a travel in Medan this coming january. But the information I got for accomodation around Brastagi & lake Toba is so limited.

So, can anyone out there who has been to the place before give me some advices on this? I'm really excited to go but at a bit worried regarding places to stay (tight budget) and also about transportation.

is it possible or okay if we go on our own by public transport? Or do we better rent a car. Actually we are planning to travel on our own without tour package to save cost. But since the information on these are very rare so we are left 'blurred'....Please help. Thanks a lot.

posts: 1
10. Re: Is Sumatra Safe?

if you need someone to explore the beautifull place in west sumatra(around Bukittinggi) email me at gben95@hotmail.com

I can help you.